On 11 December 1948 the Andhra University awarded the University’s Sir C. R. Reddy National Prize to Sri Aurobindo, which was presented to him in his room in the Ashram main building on 20 December by Sir C. R. Reddy. Soon after his visit to Pondicherry, Sir C. R. Reddy had delivered his tribute to Sri Aurobindo paid during the Convocation at the Andhra University in December 1948.
(this information has originally appeared at the Overman Foundation website]
Mr. Chancellor, our object in founding the National Prize was to bring about association between the members of the University and the inspiring personalities of contemporary India—they that make history and will live in history as permanent lights that lead us through the encircling gloom. If that was our object, we have reached the summit of realisation today by the kindly acceptance of this offering of ours by Sri Aurobindo. We are not awarding; we are making an offering. If it is due to the eminent merit in Humanities of Sri Aurobindo that we are paying him this tribute, his acceptance of it is the climax of the good fortune of the Andhra University and its blessing.
Amongst the Saviours of Humanity
In all humility of devotion, I hail Sri Aurobindo as the sole sufficing genius of the age. He is more than the hero of a nation. He is amongst the Saviours of humanity, who belong to all ages and all nations, the Sanatanas, who leaven our existence with their eternal presence, whether we are aware of it or not.
The Rishi tradition is the most glorious and priceless feature of Hindu culture. Its origin is lost in mystic antiquity, but its flow has never ceased. It will continue its sublime course till it mingles itself with eternity. We had Rishis in the Vedic era. And then a succession of Seers, of whom Gautama Siddhartha, the fairest flower and fulfilment of humanity, towers to the highest heaven, and the Sages of the Upanishads, Mahavira, Nanak, Ramdas, the inspirer of Shivaji, and in our own times, Dayananda Saraswati, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Ramana Maharshi, and he to whom we are today presenting our National Prize, Sri Aurobindo.
A great Frenchman has hailed Sri Aurobindo as the last of our Rishis. Really, he is the most recent, for in this world of death and sorrow, Rishis are an undying race of bliss. And they pulsate every now and again with far-flashing revelations like those wonderful stars which astronomers call the Light-houses of the Celestial Regions.
Sri Aurobindo excels in the range and compass of his genius. He is a poet, dramatist, philosopher, critic, interpreter and commentator of the Vedas, the Gita, and all the transcendent lore and legend of India, and he is something higher than these, the Saint who has realised his oneness with the Universal Spirit, and has fathomed the depths and brought up treasures of transcendent value and brilliance. But these many aspects of Sri Aurobindo possess an organic unity of thought, impulse and purpose. They all reflect in their several phases the light of eternity that is in him.
I am not going to narrate the life of Sri Aurobindo, as chronologically lived. Our Professor, Mr. K. R. Srinivasa Iyengar’s splendid biography of Sri Aurobindo is there for all to read. A book written in a style of superlative charm and power, and one which could without exaggeration be regarded as a masterpiece in English literature. Perhaps I may recall by way of pardonable vanity and the petty desire to shine in Sri Aurobindo’s reflected light, that we are both Cambridge men, he very much my senior, and that I succeeded him as the Vice-Principal of the Baroda College. I had the honour of knowing him, though scantily, in his Purva-Ashrama. We had a number of friends in common. Mr. A. B. Clark, the Principal of the Baroda College, remarked to me, “So you met Aurobindo Ghose. Did you notice his eyes? There is mystic fire and light in them. They penetrate into the beyond.” And he added, “If Joan of Arc heard heavenly voices, Aurobindo probably sees heavenly visions.” Clark was a materialist of materialists. I have never been able to understand how that worldly but delightful person could have glimpsed the truth, the latent, about Aurobindo. But then does not the lightning’s blinding flash, which lasts but a moment, leap forth from the dark black bosom of the cloud? The Alipore Jail, where he was consigned to solitude and meditation for a year, marks a turning-point in Sri Aurobindo’s career. The British Government had bound his body and liberated his soul. They did not mean it, but the best things that we do are, not infrequently, done unwittingly, spontaneously. Body enslaved, soul set free, that was the paradox of his incarceration. It was there that his first mystic experiences and direct perception of the Eternal Truths, which according to our Sphota theory are ever present, floating as it were in the space that envelops the Universe, occurred. Beginning to realise himself he retired to Pondicherry in 1910. Can a Rishi ever retire? He may retire in body; very often the retirement of the body is the prelude to the soul ascending the heights of heaven and ranging over the entire globe. His physical being is in Pondicherry; but his influence, can we set limits to it in space or in time? His Ashram, one of the beacon-lights of the world, attracts the devout and the serious-minded without distinction of race and country. Judged by temporal standards he is seventy-six years old, but really time cannot touch him, or earth and its impurities. His soul is like a star and dwells apart.
Unison of Literature, Metaphysics and Sadhana of Realisation
In Sri Aurobindo, literature, metaphysics, and the Sadhana of realisation, are a spiral ascending from Earth to Heaven in mutual support and unison. In the superb summary of Mr. K. R. Srinivasa Iyengar, “the Seer has fronted reality; the Poet has hymned his ‘Gloried Fields of trance’, the Philosopher has sought to interpret the vision in terms of reason; the Yogi has formulated a method, a multiform technique, for achieving the desired change in consciousness; the sociologist has thrown out significant hints in regard to the organisation of tomorrow’s world; and the creative critic has sensed the rhythms of the ‘future poetry’ and described how the ‘new’ poet will ride on the wings of an elemental spirituality and articulate the ineluctable rhythms of the Spirit.”
As a poet Sri Aurobindo ranks high. In that most difficult of all forms of prosody, the Blank Verse, which under inartistic hands has a fatal tendency to become prose, he has a place all his own, which is among the highest. “Urvasie”, and “Love and Death”, and “Savitri”, a legend and a symbol, are in charm and beauty without a parallel in English Literature. “Ahana” and “Dawn over Ilion” are masterpieces in Hexameter, a classical metre difficult to transplant in modern soils. “Savitri” is rising and growing, and has not yet reached the full flush of her grace and beauty, and when it does, it will have given a new colouring, a new life and attraction to the immortal legend of the Mahabharata.
In many of his works of criticism, interpretations of the Veda and the Gita, he has combined vast research with the intuition of a poet, the reflection of a philosopher and the vision of a Rishi. He has a sentence that will serve to inspire the United Nations Organisation and give it spiritual ground and hope — “Evolution moves through diversity from a simple to a complex oneness. Unity the race moves towards, and must one day realise.” It is a fine phrase “complex oneness” and a far-reaching ray or hope and comfort though today we are all overwhelmed by the complexity and do not seem to be nearing oneness except under the devastating might of the Atom Bomb.
Sri Aurobindo’s faith in the sure but slow evolution of human unity in harmonious diversity is too robust to be dwarfed or defeated by hard, stubborn facts. Rather it is a faith that is out to conquer fact and remould it nearer to the heart’s desire. He is of the race of prophets who see the present as but a transitory moment that should not be allowed to overcome the optimism of man.
Prophet of the Life Divine
It is not as a man of letters or of philosophy, that Sri Aurobindo reaches his unique eminence; but it is as a Yogi who has caught the light and reflects it in blissful abundance. He is the Prophet of the Life Divine, to him it is an experience and not mere idea. This experience could be shared by others. The nature of his spiritual quest, which led to his great conquest, he thus described in a letter to C. R. Das who defended him in the Alipore trial—“I see more and more manifestly that man cannot get out of the futile cycle the race is always treading, until he has raised himself to a new foundation. How could our present instruments, intellect, life, mind, body, be made true and perfect channels for this great transformation? This was the problem I have been trying to work out in my own experience and I have now a sure basis, a wide knowledge, and some mastery of the secret.”
He presents his gospel in a book that is a landmark in the history of human thought and aspiration, “The Life Divine”, which Sir Francis Younghusband has acclaimed as the “greatest book published in my generation”. Pythagoras spoke of the Music of the Heavens. Here is the Music of Humanity, no longer still sad, ascending to Heaven. Sri Aurobindo believes that we shall evolve into a higher state of being; and this evolution will enable us to overcome the limitations and miseries of our present existence and lead us to a world whose course is equable and pure—a life of harmony and bliss. This process of evolution is actual. It is operating steadily here and now, and will not stop short of fulfilling itself. In due course, Man will attain the New Life, in which pains and sorrows will have no existence and death no sting.
Sri Aurobindo relieves our despair by the certainty of this advent. In the world of death, he, the Immortal, gives us the assurance of Immortality. The world has need of Thee, Sri Aurobindo, and that is why Thou art with us still.
Mr. Chancellor, I now request you, on behalf of the Andhra University, to be so good as to make the offering of this National Prize, with which it is my unmerited good fortune to have my name linked, in absentia to Sri Aurobindo. I doubt, though, if the term, in absentia, is properly applicable. For though Sri Aurobindo leads a life of rigorous seclusion, rarely seeing people or being seen by people, yet thousands of devotees in all parts of the world feel him as a real presence. He is not of the earth and does not mix with the earth, but heaven envelops us all. So, Mr. Chancellor, honour the University, and if you don’t think it impertinent of me to say so, honour yourself by awarding the Sir Cattamanchi Ramalinga Reddy National Prize to Sri Aurobindo.
Source: Mother India, 19 February 1949